Shinty: Bute triumph in thrilling Balliemore Cup final

Bute captain Iain MacDonald and his son Rory proudly show off the Balliemore Cup after Bute's 4-2 extra-time win over Beauly.
Bute captain Iain MacDonald and his son Rory proudly show off the Balliemore Cup after Bute's 4-2 extra-time win over Beauly.

Bute Shinty Club lifted the Balliemore Cup for the fourth time in ten years after a dramatic 4-2 extra-time win over Beauly in Ballachulish on Saturday.

Goals from Gordon McMillan, Robert Walker, Iain MacDonald and David Whitelaw delighted a large travelling support at The Jubilee as Bute added to their previous Balliemore triumphs in 2004, 2006 and 2011 with a display full of grit and determination.

The game got off to the worst possible start for Bute when a long Beauly free hit caught out the islanders’ defence and enabled Marc MacLachlan to lift the ball over keeper Kevin Queen and into the net with just 38 seconds on the clock.

Ross Forbes thought he’d doubled Beauly’s lead on 14 minutes, but his effort was disallowed for offside, while Bute suffered a similar fate at the other end when Leighton Reid’s well-struck shot past keeper MacKay Murray was chalked off after the ball went out of play during the build-up.

Beauly, who had started the match as favourites after a fine run to the top of North Division One, looked strong in defence and more comfortable in possession for much of the first half, but Bute gradually got a foothold in the game and levelled on 36 minutes when John McCallum’s low ball into the danger zone skipped merrily past several players from both sides before being flicked into the net by Gordon McMillan.

The scores remained level at half time, but it was Beauly who looked to have gained the most from the chance to regroup at the break, and Sean Stewart put the men in green back in front on 52 minutes, converting the rebound after James Cameron’s shot struck the post.

For long spells after regaining the lead Beauly controlled the game in midfield, but they couldn’t find the third goal which would have left Bute with a mountain to climb - and Bute made their opponents pay on 78 minutes when James Craig won a free hit on the edge of the D, and Walker lashed the ball home to leave the game level at 2-2 after the regulation 90 minutes’ play.

In hot and sticky conditions which had led referee Daniel Macrae to stop play midway through the first and second halves to allow the players a drinks break, half an hour’s extra time was probably the last thing the two sides needed.

But far from wilting in the heat, Bute instead seemed to find their second wind, and just four minutes into extra time James Craig was upended inside the D and MacDonald converted the penalty to give Bute the lead for the first time.

Robert Ferguson missed a great chance to make the game safe for Bute after a fine move split the Beauly defence open, but the islanders always looked the likelier side in the closing stages, and put one hand on the trophy when Whitelaw’s ambitious effort from 40 yards squirmed past the Beauly keeper and over the line.

Beauly’s misery was completed when David Groat was sent off for a second booking three minutes from time - in stark contrast to the Bute celebrations, both when the final whistle blew and when captain MacDonald and his son Rory, the team mascot for the day, stepped up to receive the trophy from Camanachd Association president Archie Robertson.